thyroid cancer

A recently published study analyzes trends in the occurrence of thyroid cancer and mortality rates with respect to tumor characteristics at the time of diagnosis.


Thyroid cancer is the product of uncontrolled cell division occurring within the thyroid gland. Over time, thyroid cancer has rapidly increased among the United States’ population. The most common type is identified as papillary thyroid cancer. A general increase has also been identified in mortality rates due to thyroid cancer. These increases may be accounted for by the improved technology that can identify small-scale tumors, and the prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and obesity. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study to assess the potential correlation between increased diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer, and the rise in thyroid cancer mortality rates.

Reports of 77276 thyroid cancer cases occurring between 1974 and 2013 were included in the study. Characteristics of cancer at diagnosis were linked with information of the deaths of the respective cases. Demographics recorded at the time of diagnosis included age, race, and sex. Histology was utilized to determine the characteristics of the thyroid cancer which was classified as medullary, anaplastic, follicular, and other thyroid cancers. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine the annual percent change in rates. The study compared annual percent changes in thyroid cancer incidence adjusted with age, and mortality rates based on incidence with respect to the type of thyroid cancer.

The demographics of the recorded thyroid cancer cases comprised of a mean age of 48, a majority diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer, and a total of 2371 thyroid cancer deaths occurring between 1994 and 2013. An average increase of 3.6% per year was identified in thyroid cancer incidence. Incidence-based mortality rates increased by an average of 1.1% per year from 1994 to 2013. The findings support the hypothesis of a true increase in the prevalence of thyroid cancer within the population of the United States.

The results of this study highlight the importance of treatment and preventative actions against thyroid cancer. With an increase in environmental and genetic risk factors such as obesity and smoking, the prevalence of thyroid cancer has witnessed an overall increase. The study encourages medical professionals to develop treatments for thyroid cancer to further reduce mortality rates. It also suggests dietitians and health care professionals promote healthy lifestyles that may prevent the development of such diseases. Finally, the study emphasizes the need for individuals to get annual check-ups to potentially identify tumors at early and treatable stages. Despite the development of medical technology to identify serious medical conditions at early points, risk factors pertaining to lifestyle choices continue to create an increase in thyroid cancer mortality rates.


Written By: Shrishti Ahuja, BSc

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